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The Other Placebo Effect (by Ric Weinman)

We usually think of the placebo effect as the effect that can happen when we believe we are taking something that will help us, and we get better even though we just took sugar pills. But the placebo works both ways: we also show can show symptoms when we believe that something is bad for us, even if it turns out that it was just sugar pills. The dark side of the placebo effect is called the nocebo effect, which means ‘I will harm’. This is the source of most of voodoo’s power—people believe they are cursed and that they are going to die, and they start to deteriorate. But if you can create a ceremony that convinces the voodoo victim that you have lifted the curse, they will return to good health.

Apparently, the greatest group of voodoo-type doctors in the world today are the doctors of modern medicine. But this goes unnoticed because if a negative prognosis turns out to be true, the doctor is only considered to have accurately predicted the condition, not to have contributed to it. But studies show that in double blind studies with drugs, where side-effects are expected, a significant portion of the controls end up with these side-effects. One man, in a study like this for depression, had an argument with his girlfriend and took the rest of the bottle of pills to commit suicide. Soon he regretted it and was taken to the hospital, where he collapsed. His blood pressure dropped and he started into rapid breathing. But the doctors could find nothing wrong with him in his blood-work. After some time, the doctor from his depression study came in and revealed to him that he was in the control group, that there were no drugs in the pills he took. Fifteen minutes later his blood pressure and heart rate had returned to normal.

Along these lines, 60% of people undergoing chemotherapy start to feel sick before treatment even begins. In one study, it was found that women who believed they are particularly prone to heart attack are nearly four times as likely to die from coronary conditions than other women with the same risk factors.

There have even been ‘epidemics’ of belief-created illness, where one person believes they have gotten ill from a cause that turned out to not be real, and then many associates who see this person being ill believe that they must have it, too, and develop similar symptoms.




Sleep deprivation is a serious condition that affects 1 of every 3 people at some point in their lives. Many of us have battled with it for years. According to statistics

• 20-40% of all adults have insomnia in the course of any year
Over 70 million Americans suffer from disorders of sleep and wakefulness
Of those, 60% have a chronic disorder

Good news!!! There are surprisingly effective ways to address sleep deprivation without the use of drugs. The "downside" is that they do require changes in lifestyle, and that is something most people don't want to do. But for those who have tried everything else and are desperate for change, these less-than-obvious methods can be true lifesavers.

Often, sleep deprivation or insomnia come to us as a surprise, as if we became "victims" of it. What many people don't know, however, is that some of the reasons behind insomnia are self-inflicted and have been contributing to the problem little by little, making it very difficult for anyone to make a connection between the two (cause and effect).

Here are 15 tips for better sleep that you can start implementing today. The list is geared towards people who regular work schedule (9 - 5), but has some pointers that will help everyone. PLEASE note that for some of us, it has taken years to create the problem; naturally, it might take a couple of weeks to turn it around.

Being able to do everything on the list won't be easy. If you can do just some of it, that would be great. Don't try to remember all of it; just print it out for easy reference. 

15 Tips For Better Sleep

  1. Do not consume energy drinks, chocolate, tea, coffee, or anything with caffeine in it within 3-4 hours prior to going to sleep as it increases your alertness and thus makes it more difficult to fall asleep. (Did you know that decaf has some caffeine in it?) 
  2. The same goes with carbonated drinks (sodas, etc.).
  3. Don't exercise rigorously 3-4 hours prior to going to sleep as it severely increases your heart rate. Even moderate exercise done too close to your bedtime can postpone your ability to fall asleep. If you must exercise close to bedtime, Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara) done before and after exercise enhances your body's ability to recover from exercise and lower the heart rate quicker.
  4. Don't do mentally challenging work (problem solving, creative work, excessive thinking, etc.) 2-3 hours before going to bed. That will activate your mind just like rigorous exercise activates your body.
  5. Eating substantial amounts of food in the evening forces your digestive system remain unnecessarily active throughout the night. Eat your dinner no later than 6:30 pm and only light, healthy snacks after that, if necessary. (Most people consume most of their calories during the day, thus lunch should be the heaviest meal.)
  6. Do everything you know from experience that supports your sleep (using the pillows/blankets/sheets you like, what to wear, open/close the door/curtains, asking others to turn down TV/music/conversation/lights, etc.).
  7. Establish regular daily routines with healthy, balanced diet and hard enough exercise (at least 3x/week, over 30 min at a time, break a sweat). Adding yoga to your routine can be beneficial as it releases the body from tension when done properly, making you more relaxed and less agitated.
  8. Go to bed at the same time every day to establish a routine your body can adapt to.
  9. Massage your head, ears, palms, and the bottom of your feet earlier in the evening for a few minutes (a shoulder massage would also be good to alleviate stress accumulated there). These (maybe excluding the shoulders) have an incredible amount of important energy points that thoroughly enjoy physical massage. The benefits will lead to better circulation and bodily functioning and enhance the sense of relaxation. Using herbal oils with a calming effect can enhance the results still.
  10. Do some reading. Immediately, when you notice yourself spending a lot of time on a single page and start yawning, put the book away and go to sleep.
  11. Don't TRY to sleep. Trying is effort, leading to more activated bodily functions and mental/emotional alertness.
  12. Don't fight thoughts. It makes your mind even more active and alert. It will also end up making you frustrated and angry. Instead, keep noticing the gaps (however small) in between the thoughts. Gently allow you awareness to be with and relax into the gaps.
  13. To get yourself out of your head, allow your awareness to become aware of different sensations in the body (any sensation goes, such as tightness, flow of energy, pain, warmth, tingling, etc.).There is no need to analyze or stick with any one of them; just quiet observation is enough.
  14. *Deal with life issues that cause physical, mental, and emotional stress and strain at work/home and in your relationships. Often, people can't fall asleep if they are worried about their future or if an issue is bothering them.
  15. *Deal with fears related to sleeping (darkness, non-physical beings, bad dreams) or trauma (rape, molestation, violence, house fire, storm), especially if they took place in a bedroom. 

    * Dealing with these issues can be challenging. It is recommended you find professional help. See healerlink.com.

BONUS TIP: (from AyurVeda)

There is something very interesting that happens to people at night. Have you noticed how somewhere around 9 - 9:30 pm you naturally get a sudden but very distinctive moment of tiredness that lasts about 15-20 minutes? (You start to yawn as well.) THIS IS EXACTLY WHEN TO GO TO BED. Most people fight this off, simply because: a) they don't know that a human body naturally wants to go to bed and be in asleep by 10 pm, b) think they are a "night person" and are so used to their routine that they can't even imagine going to bed this early.

Most people in category "b" will object this advice and find all reasons possible to rationalize it away (TV, internet, work, food, reading, phone calls, hanging out, relaxing, etc.). In essence, they make a mental argument against what their body is actually telling them. As a result, they'll be wide awake by 10 pm and have practically lost their chances to fall asleep before midnight.

Unfortunately, around 10 pm they'll be facing yet another cycle of nature which they interpret as being hungry. Eating food at this hour further activates metabolism and makes sleeping more shallow. (It is quite uncomfortable to sleep with full stomach.) Combining shallow sleep with a need to get up before we are fully rested makes matters even worse. This will result not only in chronic need for sleep but also in excessive consumption of caffeinated products, after all, we need to be awake at work.

Bottom line: because of work, kids, etc., most of us don't have the luxury to control the time we would like to get up. However, we can control the time we go to sleep. If we naturally need 8 hours of sleep to function properly (give or take an hour) and we constantly lack two hours of sleep per night, it is obvious we can't go on like that forever without paying a price. Thus, if you know you have to get up at 6 am and need 8 hours of sleep, you'd need to be sleeping by 10 pm.


Considering that 80% of all illness is stress-related, it is bound to touch the life of every person. It could be argued that stress makes our nervous system "nervous". The less we have it (or the more we have released stress), the less nervous (or more relaxed and alert) we feel. As the level of stress declines, the free'er our nervous system will be of blockages that prevent the flow of intelligence, stimuli, energy, and information. If it was completely free from stress, well, I bet that would be the first time our nervous system would be functioning in a normal way.

Releasing stress from our energy system can take place at least in two ways - and they are both very important and complementary to each other. The first one is to utilize methods that bring general relaxation into our system. One of such methods is meditation. When done properly, it can produce deep states of rest and relaxation. This occurs automatically as the mind settles down to its most peaceful yet awake state. This state of "restful alertness" helps to facilitate a profound process of purification and rejuvenation throughout our being.

Such an experience is like taking a shower after a long time. Physically, we feel rested and rejuvenated. Mentally, we feel quick and sharp and obtain a better ability to focus on our daily responsibilities. Emotionally, we feel more relaxed and stable and less prone to get overwhelmed by the stressful impulses our nervous system gets bombarded with regularly. Spiritually, we feel refreshed. Naturally, the effects are bound to have a positive impact on our relationships with our surroundings as well.

But techniques that approach stress release in a general way fail to penetrate and resolve our most pressing problems. That is a huge problem that can only be resolved by getting specific - no beating around the bush is going to do it for us, after all, the reasons behind our issues are specific. That is why I recommend we all find an expert with such know-how AND also learn how to better handle issues ourselves as they emerge.

One such technique is Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). It follows a different approach in bringing about relaxation and stress release. It is used to clear out specific negative incidents, issues, and long-standing patterns, and, as such, is a very helpful and complementary technique to even those of us who already follow a healthy and regular daily routine with proper diet, exercise, yoga, and meditation, etc.

The experience EFT produces can best be described as getting out of an emotional jail. Anyone who has used it to release themselves from an old (or new) haunting and debilitating emotional issue can relate to that feeling. It is simply liberating - and allows anyone to move on with their lives the way they always desired or longed for - but which they never got to experience because the grip of the problem was too strong to overcome through techniques that focus only on generating an overall feeling of relaxation. That is where EFT comes in - to address a specific concern.

While EFT can be incredibly helpful in creating better health and well-being, it fails to reach the deeper dimensions where the true roots of our issues are held. And going deeper we must, should we really want to break through our story and the illusion of separate self.

Obviously, the road within is long and deep, but there is a healing modality that has the power to create significant shortcuts: VortexHealing® Therapy. Being a divine healing art, it has the energy and consciousness necessary to heal our issues directly at their root and transform them into the Wholeness from which they came. It can also address little-known conditions that are responsible for maintaining some of our most persistent issues and patterns - and thus a great source of everyday stress. (At HealerLink, we always look to release those for your maximum benefit.)

Having learned only a very specific set of asanas (postures) that prepares one's mind for transcending (going beyond) the thinking mind, I decided to put in some effort to deepen my 10-year-old yoga practice. Motivated to open up energy blockages in specific areas of my body, I chose to do some research on the subject. As I browsed the internet and magazines on the subject, I was astounded (and overwhelmed) by the amount of approaches there are to yoga these days. I understood I would need to spend a lot of time, money, and effort to find a suitable teacher, location, and approach to me.

It was only a couple of days later when an illuminating thought entered my mind: why not let the body have the control and let it move exactly the way it wants to move at a given time?! Inspired and excited by the thought, I quickly found myself in my yoga attire, ready to surrender to the moment. I could not believe the amount and depth of wisdom and creativity my body displayed as I went with what it felt like doing. Stretches and postures I had never seen or heard of (and affecting so many unknown corners of my body) kept developing like a gentle dance in which the plot was being made on the spot.

Deeply immersed and alertly curious, I paid attention to the minutest detail and sensation in my body and let it move (vs. move it) exactly to the direction it wanted. Deep relaxation and pleasantness entered my body and occasionally even my intuition felt like being cast aside, replaced by an increasing degree of bodily awareness. What a great moment that was to experience.

Afterwards, the occurrence gave birth to some contemplative reasoning. I had entered the experience without any set agenda or idea of what kind of postures I would be doing and for how long. Yet I felt I got exactly what I needed from the exercise. That suggests we already have within us all the tools and knowledge necessary to give us what we need at any given time. If true, this is very encouraging news, giving us greater hope about self-realization. Maybe it could also mean that if we are alert, disciplined, and careful enough to follow the wisdom of the body, there is less need for an external teacher, certain discipline, or set of postures.

Perhaps there is a need, perhaps there isn't. Maybe the truth of the matter changes as we progress. In the words of Swami Veda Bharati (as written in Yoga Journal 4/2004, p.53): "We are having to learn [spirituality] by prescription because we are not sensitive to whatever is natural to us. Once you recognize your authentic self, the whole yoga (union) practice comes to you. At that moment, we no longer need the system and can throw it away."

One way to think of the evolution of ego consciousness is to think of the evolution of games. Perhaps, in the beginning, there was a simple game of marbles, played with small stones. I would try to hit your stone; you would try to hit mine. Then think of the process of that evolving into something as complex as Chess. There was a natural movement for the game to evolve in complexity. Marbles (stones) was fun when it was new. After a few weeks or months or years, though, it got a little old. Something with a new twist was needed—perhaps different colored marbles with each color having particular properties—perhaps only yellow marbles could ‘take’ red ones, etc. The development of the ego is like that—it raises the cosmic game to a new level. Hey—now we can play with egos, not just mental constructs!

Or imagine 3 divine beings hanging around (outside of space and time, of course) and they are playing what all divine beings play when they are just hanging around—Poker! Except that everyone knows everyone else’s hand, and because of absolute Oneness, no one ever wins or loses. It’s just all One. And then one of the beings of the One expresses what the One has thought: What would it be like if no one could know what cards the other beings were holding? That would be cool. What would it be like to win? What would it be like to lose? Think of all the amazing games that could be played if you didn’t know the whole picture!

And so the was ego developed to play these games. The divine has become ego to explore and experience itself in a forever evolving game that requires separation for the game to go deeper. It’s like getting your first passport and coming into a small inheritance—suddenly the whole world has opened up with possibilities.

The problem is that within the game, the beauty and joy of the game gets lost because of the suffering of the ego. (With great excitement, you took your new passport, went to France, fell in love, but then got your heart broken.) The ego becomes lost in the game and it is now being played from survival rather than joy. Of course, that’s also part of the development of the game—let’s play survival! The irony is that one has to get outside the game to appreciate the beauty of it. And from outside the game, the process looks beautiful. So beautiful it can bring tears to your eyes. And the creation of the ego looks like your greatest accomplishment, enabling you to play the most ultimate and bizarre games—birth & death, attachment & loss, success & failure, acceptance & rejection, good & evil, relationship (with & without sex, with & without intimacy), work & vacation, ecstasy & despair. Without the ego, You could not have had the experience you have had. None of it would have been possible. All that beauty and richness of life-experience never would have been.

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